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Sports

    The Yankees have given up on Jacoby Ellsbury, cutting the oft-injured outfielder with more than $26 million left in his $153 million, seven-year contract. Ellsbury, who has not played since 2017, was released Wednesday to clear a 40-man roster spot as New York added seven players to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 draft. Ellsbury is owed $26,285,714 by the Yankees in one of their biggest free agent mistakes: $21,142,857 for next season plus a $5 million buyout of a $21 million team option for 2021. New York also cut frequently injured first baseman Greg Bird and left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr., designating the pair for assignment. Outfielder Estevan Florial was added to the major league roster along with right-handers Deivi García, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure. Now 36, Ellsbury hit .264 with 39 homers, 198 RBIs and 102 stolen bases in 520 games in six seasons with the Yankees. He spent his first seven seasons with Boston and was in All-Star in 2011, and arrived in New York with a .284 career average, 104 homers, 512 RBIs and 343 steals for Boston. Ellsbury injured an oblique muscle in his right side early during spring training in 2018, developed a bad back and had hip surgery on Aug. 6 to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He experienced plantar fasciitis in his right foot during his rehab program before spring training this year. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The James Wiseman saga finally has a resolution. After months of back-and-forth between Memphis and the NCAA, the sports governing body has cleared the heralded freshman to return to the basketball court on Jan. 12. Wiseman will sit out a total of 12 games under a decision announced by the NCAA. The sports governing body also announced Wednesday that Wiseman must donate $11,500 — the amount of impermissible benefits the NCAA ruled he received — to a charity of his choice to regain his eligibility. The University of Memphis issued a statement that the NCAA informed school officials that Wiseman must sit out nine games for the infraction and three more for the games the freshman already has played this season. “Based on case precedent, the circumstances of this case and other mitigating factors, the University will immediately appeal this decision,” Memphis said. “We expect a more fair and equitable resolution, and we will exhaust all avenues on James’ behalf.” Wiseman had filed a lawsuit to continue playing after the NCAA ruled him “likely ineligible” for receiving the impermissible benefits from Penny Hardaway — who was not the Memphis coach at the time. Wiseman withdrew a lawsuit against the NCAA on Nov. 14 after Memphis played him in the Tigers’ first three games of the season. The 16th-ranked Tigers were 2-1 with the 7-foot-1 center on the court. Once Wiseman withdrew his lawsuit, Memphis held him out of a win over Alcorn State while working to resolve his eligibility status with the NCAA. His first game back will be when the Tigers visit South Florida. The NCAA had ruled Wiseman was “likely ineligible” due to $11,500 Hardaway gave the center’s family for moving expenses from Nashville to Memphis in the summer of 2017. That started a legal battle that featured Wiseman suing the NCAA and obtaining a temporary restraining order to play two games. Memphis said Wiseman will sit out Wednesday night’s game against Arkansas-Little Rock. Wiseman also will miss the Tigers’ game Nov. 28 against North Carolina State in Brooklyn, New York, on Dec. 28. Wiseman will miss a trio of games against Southeastern Conference teams: Saturday vs. Mississippi, Dec. 14 at No. 20 Tennessee and Jan. 4 vs. Georgia. The freshman also will miss the first two games of league play in the American Athletic Conference — pending Memphis’ appeal. The NCAA noted in its release Wednesday that the payment to Wiseman’s family in 2017 was not allowed because of Hardaway’s status as a booster, which included a $1 million donation to the university for the Penny Hardaway Athletic Hall of Fame. “Boosters cannot provide financial assistance to prospective student-athletes, their family members or friends unless that assistance is generally available to other members of the student body and is not given based on athletics ability,” the NCAA release stated. It’s the latest step in the dramatic and much-debated saga over a center who could be the No. 1 pick overall in the NBA draft next June if he leaves Memphis after his freshman season. Through it all, Wiseman had the backing of his coach, the university and all Memphis as he battled the NCAA off the court. Wiseman played Memphis’ opener, then went to court on Nov. 8 for a temporary restraining order that allowed him to play in a rout of Illinois-Chicago as a starter less than an hour after a judge signed the paperwork. He played in a loss at then-No. 14 Oregon and remains Memphis’ leading scorer averaging 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds. He dropped the lawsuit and his attorneys said it had become clear the lawsuit was an issue between the university and the NCAA. The lawsuit had stated the NCAA first ruled Wiseman eligible in late May before sending Memphis a letter just before the season opener that the freshman was “likely ineligible” for what the governing body deemed impermissible benefits from Hardaway, before the former NBA star became Memphis’ coach. Both Hardaway and Wiseman’s lawsuit stated the coach had disclosed the money given for moving expenses in 2017 before Wiseman played at East High School as a junior for Hardaway. The university said in a statement that Wiseman didn't know about the money given to his family. Hardaway was hired by his alma mater as head coach in March 2018. Wiseman committed to Memphis and Hardaway in November 2018 as the gem in the nation's No. 1 recruiting class for Hardaway. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired head coach Mike Babcock and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe. Babcock had a record of 9-10-4 in 2019-20 for the struggling Leafs, who are 0-5-1 in their last six games, including five straight losses in regulation. Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan flew to Arizona on Wednesday to break the news to Babcock along with general manager Kyle Dubas. Shanahan said that he felt he should be present as he hired Babcock in the spring of 2015. 'It wasn't an easy conversation to have and it wasn't pleasant, days like today are not,' Shanahan said in Scottsdale, Arizona. 'But it was what we felt was important for the club. Once you realize there's something you should do, and have to do, then it's best to act on it.' Toronto, two points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, fell 4-2 to the Golden Knights in Vegas on Tuesday night. Babcock's last win for the Leafs, on Nov. 7 against Vegas, was the 700th of his NHL career. He has a career record of 700-418-19 with Toronto, Detroit and Anaheim. Hired as part of a massive rebuild, the 56-year-old Babcock went 173-133-45 in his four-plus seasons with Toronto. He joined the Maple Leafs with an impressive resume, having won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008 and back-to-back Olympic gold medals with Canada in 2010 and 2014. After signing the richest coaching contract in NHL history at US$50 million over eight years, Babcock got Toronto to the playoffs the last three seasons, but was unable to advance beyond the first round. The 39-year-old Keefe, who has a long history with Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, was in his fifth season as head coach of the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies. Keefe was 199-89-31 with the Marlies and helped secure the franchise's first Calder Cup championship in 2018. 'Our relationship has grown,' Keefe said about Dubas in May. 'He really opened my eyes to how much there is to learn and how to look at things a little bit differently.' Toronto's last four in-season coach firings — Pat Burns, Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle and now Babcock — all took place with the team on the road. The Maple Leafs are set to take on Coyotes on Thursday night. Shanahan, Dubas and Keefe were all scheduled to speak with the media Thursday morning. Babcock's Leafs stumbled this season despite a star-studded forward group led by Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, a defense corps headlined by Morgan Rielly, Tyson Barrie and Jake Muzzin, and goalie Frederik Andersen. Toronto was unable to find traction after a summer of change that saw a number of Babcock's trusted veterans leave town as part of a salary cap crunch precipitated by big-money contract extensions handed to Matthews and Marner. In fact, Toronto's Big 4 forwards chewed up nearly half of the $81.5-million cap, leaving Dubas to try and fill in the roster around the edges with young players and discount veterans. 'Our game is not really meeting our expectations,' Shanahan said. 'We're mistake-prone on defence, the attention to details aren't there, and even the explosive offence that our team was known for has been missing for a while now, so there's a lot of work for Sheldon to do and there's a lot of work for the players to do.' The young Leafs surprised many by making the playoffs in 2016-17 before falling to the Washington Capitals in six games. Babcock was unable to get Toronto past the Boston Bruins the last two springs, losing both series in seven games. The 2019 series was especially frustrating given that the Leafs led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 with a chance to close things out at home in Game 6 before the Bruins fought back to win two straight. While there's no questioning Babcock's track record, there seemed to be a disconnect between the coach and GM in terms of roster construction and style of play after Dubas took over the top job from Lou Lamoriello in May 2018. Driving by data and analytics, Dubas focused on skill and speed — basically trying to win with four first lines — rather than the grinding type of player Babcock had previously preferred in his bottom-6 forward group. Toronto's lack of attention to detail in the defensive zone the last two seasons and sub-par specialty teams were both troubling aspects Babcock was unable to rectify, even after changing assistant coaches this season. Backup goalie was also a constant headache after the Leafs lost veteran Curtis McElhinney on waivers before the start of the 2018-19 campaign. Garret Sparks never gained Babcock's trust, while Michael Hutchinson secured just one point in five starts before getting demoted to the AHL. Before the season, Dubas was asked about his relationship with Babcock, who was heavily criticized for his deployment of Matthews in Game 7 of Toronto's first-round playoff exit last spring. 'We talk a lot,' Dubas said at the start of training camp. 'We disagree, as any coach and GM do a lot. We agree on a lot of things and we work through it all. The key is, on areas that you disagree, that you respect one another and you work through all that.' 'We communicate all the time,' Babcock added in September. 'We don't agree all the time. I've enjoyed it. We're excited about our opportunity.' Babcock also knew he'd be on the hot seat if things went sideways. 'I do, for sure,' Babcock said. 'The expectation each and every year should be greater than the previous year if you're going in the right direction.' ___ More AP NHL: https://www.apnews.com/NHL and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Jin Young Ko won twice as many tournaments as anyone else on the LPGA Tour this year. Her four victories included two majors. Her dominance was so thorough that she wrapped up the points-based award as player of the year with three tournaments remaining. And with $1.5 million available to the winner in the season finale, none of that matters. The CME Group Tour Championship is a free-for-all involving the richest payout in women’s golf. All that was required was getting to Tiburon Golf Club as one of the 60 players in the Race to CME Globe, in which points were accrued over 31 tournaments dating to January. Start on Thursday, it’s a sprint. That’s fine for Ko, provided “sprint” is merely a figure of speech. The 24-year-old South Korean was playing in Taiwan three weeks ago when she felt a tug in her left ankle. She couldn’t swing. She asked the other players to play ahead of her to give it some time, and she managed to hit her shot. But then it hurt walking. Midway through the third round, she withdrew. A cortisone shot, ice every night, some rest, and now she’s in Florida trying to put a proper end to a sensational year. “Still worried a little bit,” Ko said. “Hopefully getting better, but then this week is the last, so it will be fine.” It’s a conclusion unlike any other in the LPGA Tour. The tour abandoned the format of resetting the points to give only the top 12 players a shot at winning the Race to CME Globe and its $1 million bonus, a reward for having played the best golf all year. The objective this year was to qualify for the Tour Championship. Ko has the same chance at the $1.5 million check as Stacy Lewis, who finished 60th in the points standings and otherwise would have taken the rest of the year off to heal a rib injury in her lower back. And because the money is official, any of the top 10 players who win have a mathematical chance to capture the season money title. Ko was so good this year that she is $721,791 ahead of Jeongeun Lee6 on the money list. Any other year, and Ko already would have wrapped up the money title. Just not this one. And she’s OK with that. “That is really great motivation to me, so I will keep trying harder,” she said. It should be easier to follow. A year ago, Lexi Thompson won the tournament and the $500,000 in official money, while Ariya Jutanugarn won the Race to CME Globe and the $1 million bonus. The year before that, the roles were reversed — Jutanugarn won the tournament, Thompson won the points race. Brooke Henderson wasn’t a big fan of the new concept when she first heard about it. “I had worked so hard the last few years to be in those top positions to have a chance at winning the big money,” said Henderson, who is No. 2 in the standings with two victories this year. “But at the end of the day, I think it’s great for golf to see the purses increase, and to have an opportunity like this is unlike any other event we’ve ever played.” The $1.5 million prize represents more than Thompson has won all year. Ko, meanwhile, is still going to collect her share of awards this week as part of the season-ending celebration. She already was presented a $100,000 bonus for having the most top-10 finishes (12 in 21 events), winning a tiebreaker because of her four victories. She will get the Rolex LPGA Player of the Year award Thursday night at the awards dinner, along with the Annika Major Award for having the best record in the majors this year. Barring a collapse, she will win the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. And she still has the inside track to the LPGA money title. That requires the most work because everyone starts from scratch and so many players are lined up behind her in the standings if Ko falters. A third-place finish still would be enough for Ko to become the first woman to make $3 million in a season. Nelly Korda, one of seven players with multiple victories this year, summed up the chase for the $1.5 million prize in the simplest of terms. “To win this tournament, you have to play good golf,” Korda said. “At the end of the day, whoever wins deserves it.”
  • Charles Barkley has issued an apology for a comment he made to a female political reporter about hitting her. Axios reporter Alexi McCammond wrote on Twitter Tuesday night that when she questioned Barkley on his indecisiveness over the Democratic presidential hopefuls, Barkley told her “I don’t hit women but if I did I would hit you.” McCammond says when she objected to his remarks, Barkley told her she “couldn’t take a joke.” Barkley, a former NBA player who works as a basketball analyst for TNT’s Inside the NBA, issued an apology on Wednesday through TurnerSportsPR on Twitter saying his comment was “inappropriate and unacceptable.” Barley said in the statement that “it was an attempted joke that wasn’t funny at all. There’s no excuse for it and I apologize.” ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Washington Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway has been suspended three games for spitting on an opponent. The NHL announced Hathaway’s suspension Wednesday after a hearing with him. He will forfeit $24,194 in salary. Toward the end of a heated brawl between the Capitals and Ducks on Monday night, Hathaway responded to a rabbit punch from Erik Gudbranson by spitting on the Anaheim defenseman. Hathaway was ejected with a match penalty that carried with it an automatic suspending pending review by the league. Hathaway said he regretted spitting on Gudbranson and called it an emotional moment. He will miss Washington’s games against the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers. The 27-year-old has been a strong addition to the Capitals since they signed him in July. With Washington in salary cap trouble because of injuries and the suspension, the team put winger Carl Hagelin on long-term injured reserve and Nic Dowd on injured reserve and recalled two minor league forwards to play Wednesday night at New York. ___ More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Jimmie Johnson sat down next to Jeff Gordon at a 2001 driver meeting and asked the champion if he had time to offer any career advice. Gordon was so impressed with the fellow California native that he encouraged Rick Hendrick to start a team built specifically for the 25-year-old Johnson. It turned into one of the greatest hires in NASCAR history and nudged Gordon aside as the most dominant driver on the track. Now Johnson will follow Gordon and many other NASCAR superstars into retirement as the seven-time champion announced Wednesday he will retire from full-time competition after next season. The 44-year-old Johnson joins an exodus of popular drivers that began when Gordon retired after the 2015 season. Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick and Jamie McMurray are among those who followed Gordon out the door. Johnson, the winningest driver of his era, said in a video posted to his social media and titled “(hash)Chasing8 one final time” that next season will be his final attempt to win a record eighth Cup title. It will be his 19th season in the No. 48 Chevrolet. “I am so thankful for 18 incredible years of racing in NASCAR,” Johnson said in the black-and-white video comprised of highlights from his career. “This sport has been good to me and allowed me to do something I truly love. I showed up chasing a dream and achieved more than I thought possible. I am looking forward to next season and celebrating what will be my last year as a full-time Cup driver. I know what this team is capable of and I hope 2020 is one of the best yet.” Johnson scheduled a Thursday news conference at Hendrick Motorsports to discuss his decision. He joins Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. as Hendrick drivers who have called it a career since 2015. 'NASCAR history will always hold Jimmie Johnson in the highest regard, for his hard-charging success on the racetrack and the way he conducted himself as a champion off the track,” said NASCAR Chairman Jim France. “This remarkable seven-time champion — through his competitive spirit, immense talent and sportsmanship — has made NASCAR a better sport.” Reaction was immediate from drivers, as well as retired cyclist Lance Armstrong and seven-time Supercross champion Jeremy McGrath. “Proud of you, bro,” Armstrong wrote. “And even prouder to call you a friend. Let’s go get #8.” Gordon called Johnson “a class act and true champion on & off track” while current Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott was among the many young drivers to refer to Johnson as the greatest of all time with an emoji of a goat. Johnson has 83 career victories, tied with Cale Yarborough for sixth all-time. He trails Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison on the all-time win list by one, and two wins in 2020 would give him sole possession of fourth on the list behind Gordon’s mark of 93 trips to victory lane. Johnson’s seven titles are tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most in the Cup Series, the last one coming in 2016. His most impressive championship battle was likely title No. 2 during a 10-win 2007 season in an epic showdown with Gordon, his teammate. Gordon won back-to-back playoff races that season to take the points lead, but Johnson reeled off four straight victories and Gordon visited him in victory lane after the fourth win and bowed in concession. The heady days are long gone and Johnson has been in a two-year slump. He last won a race in 2017 and had two different crew chief changes this season while missing the playoffs for the first time since the format began in 2004. He finished 18th in the final standings, 13th in Sunday’s season finale, and has just five top-five finishes the last two years. Johnson has driven for Rick Hendrick his entire Cup career and set a NASCAR record in winning five consecutive titles from 2006 through 2010, an accomplishment that earned him Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year after his fifth crown. All 83 of Johnson’s wins have come in the No. 48 and include two Daytona 500s, four victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a record 11 wins at Dover International Speedway, nine at Martinsville Speedway and eight at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Johnson had two years remaining on his contract when new sponsor Ally signed on before this season to replace Lowe’s, which had sponsored Johnson from his 2001 debut through 2018. Ally last month announced a three-year extension to sponsor the No. 48, but Johnson’s future was not tied to the renewal through 2023. “Jimmie Johnson is a legend in racing, the epitome of class and the ultimate representative of our brand,” said Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing officer at Ally. “We are proud that Jimmie will finish his remarkable NASCAR driving career with Ally as his primary sponsor.” ___ More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph wanted to get away from Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. The way Rudolph went about it — a process that contributed to a brawl that culminated with Rudolph getting smacked in the head with his own helmet and led to Garrett getting suspended by the NFL indefinitely — is one of the first-year starter’s regrets. Saying “there is no acceptable excuse,” Rudolph said his behavior in the final moments of last Thursday’s 21-7 loss to the Browns fell short of the standard set by the league and the Steelers. “The bottom line is I should have done a better job keeping my composure in that situation,” Rudolph said Wednesday while reading from a prepared statement before briefly taking questions from reporters. Garrett and Rudolph became entangled on the next-to-last Steelers snap of Cleveland’s lopsided 21-7 victory. Rudolph flipped a short pass to running back Jaylen Samuels just before getting hit by Garrett, who twisted Rudolph to the ground as play continued downfield. Rudolph took exception to Garrett wrapping him up, calling it “late.” Rudolph said he was trying to separate himself from Garrett — who was not flagged on the play — when he briefly grabbed the back of the 6-foot-4, 272-pound Garrett’s helmet. “It was the last play of the game and I was just trying to get him from off on top of me,” Rudolph said. Garrett responded by tugging at Rudolph’s facemask, eventually ripping it off and holding it high while Steelers guard David DeCastro attempted to separate them. Rudolph scrambled to his feet and gave chase in an apparent attempt to retrieve his helmet. Garrett then swung the helmet at Rudolph, connecting on the right side of Rudolph’s head. The chaos that followed included Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey punching and kicking Garrett and Rudolph getting knocked to the ground by a blind-side hit from Cleveland defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. In addition to handing out a record suspension to Garrett, the NFL banned Pouncey for three games and ordered Ogunjobi to sit out on Sunday when the Browns host Miami. All three players are appealing. Rudolph said he has not been notified of any fine for his actions but will accept whatever punishment the league metes out. “I have no ill will toward Myles Garrett, great respect for his ability as a player,” Rudolph said. “And I know if Myles could go back he would handle the situation differently.” Rudolph said he “definitely didn’t say anything” to escalate the situation with Garrett, calling the ordeal “an unfortunate situation for both teams involved.” Rudolph lamented that his actions led directly to Pouncey’s retaliation against Garrett that resulted in Pittsburgh (5-5) potentially losing the seven-time Pro Bowler during a critical stretch that will go a long way to determining whether they stay in the playoff picture. “Probably one of the best teammates I've ever had.,” Rudolph said of Pouncey. “A guy that you want on your team. He has your back. He has everybody's back on this team. ... I put him in a bad spot and we're looking to get him back as soon as possible whenever that is.' ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Myles Garrett looked composed and casual, a stark contrast to the last time he was seen in public. Stylishly dressed in a bright blue suit and black turtleneck, the Cleveland Browns’ star defensive end met Wednesday with an appeals officer in New York in hopes of getting a reduction to an indefinite NFL suspension that has temporarily ended Garrett’s season and tarnished his career. Garrett was banned last week for the rest of the regular season and playoffs, if Cleveland makes them, for striking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet. Garrett appealed and his case was heard by league-appointed officer James Thrash, a former NFL player, who will either lessen the penalty or put a definitive number of games on it. The former No. 1 overall draft pick spent roughly two hours in the league’s Manhattan offices before leaving with his representatives. He did not speak to the media. In the closing seconds of the Browns’ 21-7 victory over the rival Steelers on Thursday night, Garrett wrestled Rudolph to the ground before they scuffled. Pittsburgh’s QB unsuccessfully tried to rip off Garrett’s helmet before the two got to their feet. That’s when Garrett yanked off Rudolph’s helmet, swinging it and connecting with the top of the QB’s head. Rudolph avoided injury and was not suspended despite his attempt to grab Garrett’s helmet or charging at him. On Wednesday, Rudolph, who likely will be fined for his involvement, said he doesn’t begrudge Garrett. “I have no ill will toward Myles Garrett, great respect for his ability as a player and I know if Myles could go back he would handle the situation differently,” Rudolph told reporters in Pittsburgh after reading a prepared statement. “As for my involvement last week, there is no acceptable excuse. The bottom line is I should have done a better job keeping my composure in that situation. “It falls short of what I believe it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and a member of the NFL.” It’s unclear when Thrash will rule on Garrett’s appeal. As part of his punishment, the league said Garrett is required to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell's office before he can be reinstated. While Garrett awaits a ruling on his case, Thrash upheld the one-game suspension for Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who was disciplined for shoving a helmet-less Rudolph to the ground during the melee. Thrash did rescind a $10,527 fine for Ogunjobi, who will have to sit out this week’s game against the Miami Dolphins. The Browns will be down at least two starters on their defensive line and could be missing three if Olivier Vernon doesn’t return from a knee injury that has kept him out of the past two games. Earlier this week, appeals officer Derrick Brooks, a Hall of Fame linebacker, heard Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey’s appeal of a three-game suspension for punching and kicking Garrett as he lay on the ground. The league said decisions on Garrett and Pouncey will come “later this week.” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens would not divulge who from the team accompanied Garrett to his hearing. “Myles has great representation,” Kitchens said. “More importantly, Myles will represent himself well. We’re going to continue to support him and Larry and we will not waver with that support.” As Garrett pleaded his case, the Browns are trying to regroup amid the possibility they’ll be without their best defensive player for a significant period. Cleveland is still in the playoff race hunt going into Sunday’s game against Miami. On Tuesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called the incident involving Garrett “ugly for the game of football” but said there was nothing teachable to come from it because “I don't know that we did anything to make it happen in the first place.” Kitchens hopes the experience will serve as a reminder for his team to stay collected. “We talk all the time about being the smartest, toughest football team and sometimes one of those things don’t happen and you decrease your chances of winning and you decrease your chances of being successful and we want to add both of those to the mix, not one without the other,” he said. “So you have to be both. That’s a continual conversation topic and will always be discussed.” ___ AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Brooks Koepka’s knee injury is bad enough that he withdrew from the Presidents Cup three weeks before it begins. Koepka, the No. 1 player in the world who led all qualifiers for the American team, said Wednesday the injury he suffered Oct. 18 at the CJ Cup in South Korea is not recovering well enough for him to complete Dec. 12-15 at Royal Melbourne in Australia. U.S. captain Tiger Woods replaced him with Rickie Fowler. “I consider it to be a high honor to be part of the 2019 team and I regret not being able to compete,” Koepka said in a statement. “Since my injury in Korea, I have been in constant contact with Tiger and assured him that I was making every effort to be 100% in time for the Presidents Cup in Australia. However, I need more time to heal.” Koepka was coming off a season in which he won three times, including a second straight PGA Championship, and had runner-up finishes in the Masters and U.S. Open. When he started the new season in October at Las Vegas, he revealed he had stem cell treatment on his left patella the day after the Tour Championship because his knee had been bothering him over the last five months of the season. Two weeks later, he was walking down a slope off the tee at the par-5 third hole in the second round of the CJ Cup when his right foot hit a wet piece of concrete and he landed hard on his left knee for support. He shot 75 and withdrew after the round, returning to Florida for treatment. Koepka has not spoken publicly about the nature of the injury. He was in touch with Woods, who had been contemplating alternative plans. “Brooks and I talked, and he’s disappointed that he won’t be able to compete,” Woods said. “I told him to get well soon, and that we’re sorry he won’t be with us in Australia. He would clearly be an asset both on the course and in the team room.” Woods, who used one of his four captain’s picks on himself after winning in Japan, originally left Fowler off the team and said it was the hardest phone call he made when telling prospective players he was not taking them. Fowler, who got married in the offseason, has not played since the Tour Championship on Aug. 25 and withdrew from the Mayakoba Golf Classic last week because of a stomach bug he picked up during his honeymoon. He is in the field for the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas the week before the Presidents Cup. “When I heard Brooks wasn’t going to be ready to play, I was bummed for him and the team,” Fowler said. “Then I got a call from both Brooks and Tiger. I was humbled and excited to be given the chance. To be picked by Tiger to compete with him and the rest of the team is very special. It is impossible to replace the world’s No. 1, but I can assure my teammates and American golf fans that I will be prepared and ready to do my part to bring home the Presidents Cup.” Koepka had not entered the Hero World Challenge. It remained unclear whether he would be fit in time for the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Jan. 2-5 in Kapalua, or whether he would return to the Saudi International later in January. Fowler has played on the last two Presidents Cup teams, going 2-0-1 in team play with Justin Thomas at Liberty National in 2017. Among other U.S. players on this team, Fowler previously has played with Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson.